Pharyngula

Yet another reason debates suck

Lawrence Krauss has sent me a guest post discussing his debate with William Lane Craig. As he notes, these debates with cranks are always a mistake; debates in general are a format tailored to give the weak side, even the side that has no credibility at all, an equal standing with the stronger side at the beginning, and then the conclusion is resolved by the rhetorical ability of the two opponents, not the evidence. William Lane Craig is an expert debater, but he is otherwise a vacuous moron, but because he has a series of familiar syllogism that he always trots out in these debates, and because his audiences tend to be packed with the kind of people who automatically find any mention of Jesus laudatory, he tends to “win,” i.e., he gets the approval of people who reject the atheist without thinking.

You can watch the whole debate on YouTube. Warning: Craig goes first. You may not be able to stomach it — it’s a confident display of obtuseness. When he isn’t lecturing on Christian ‘physics’ — with Lawrence Krauss right there — he’s throwing out assertions and calling them evidence. For instance, he declares that Jesus’ tomb was found empty…as part of his litany of evidence for Jesus’ divinity. It’s the kind of thing that he can only get away with in front of a friendly audience that will never, ever question the assumptions of their faith.

Craig is much more polished and self-congratulatory than Krauss, and I can see that another irritation here is William Lane Craig’s smug post-mortem and the dishonest distortions of some attendees. For example, the theists claim that Krauss rejected logic in his opening remarks. This is false. What he points out in the beginning is the evidence trumps your preconceived notions, no matter how carefully you’ve worked them out, and that the observations described by physics, such as the rate of falling of two objects of different weights or the results of the two-slit experiment, are not trivially derivable by logic alone, in the absence of evidence demonstrating the phenomenon. The debate was supposed to be all about the evidence, which demands some awareness of the concept of empiricism, and Craig and his acolytes don’t even seem to know what the word means. That the Big Bang occurred 13.7 billion years ago was not determined by a theologian deriving it from his religious principles, or by a physicist standing at a chalkboard and working it all out from pure mathematics — it is a measurement from data.

Also, Craig claims to be using Bayesian logic. No, he is not. Scribbling a few trivial equations on his slides does not substitute for Craig’s painful ignorance of physics.

You can find more thorough, non-religious discussion of Craig’s fallacies at Debunking Christianity.